I’m at Stereo tonight, to see a band from Scotland playing York for the first time and it might be the fact that it is their debut that leads to the elephant in the room. Not, of course, that there was an actual elephant and, as I’m going to talk about it, it’s not really a normal use of the phrase. However, it does provide me with the opportunity to say, “if there was an elephant in the room, it would have had plenty of space to move about…” You see, apart from me, the only other people in the audience were either the two support acts or people associated with one of the support acts. Admittedly, it was a cold Tuesday night and, as we are constantly being told, money is tight these days but I understand that, across town, Fibbers was sold out, so there were people going out to enjoy live music despite the weather (and the current government…) I admit I was only there due to a unique set of circumstances and I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for all the acts, especially the headliners who probably hadn’t expected their English tour to end with such a poor turnout.
First to take the stage (and, being a solo artist, having the biggest audience) was Sophie McDonnell, who doesn’t seem to have her own page to provide a link to, but she does play and sing in Hot Fudge, a ska, reggae, funk band. Tonight, however, Sophie provided a variation on the man-and-guitar act by, well being a girl with a guitar. Two Hot Fudge songs, Feeling Torn and Lay Down, Play Dead, featured in the set, complete with vocal renditions of the trumpet solos, as did a covers of VV Brown’s Shark In The Water and Amy Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good (if memory serves). I assume the other three, Iron Man, All These Things I’ve Done and one that I missed the title off, were originals. The variety in the songs was nice and Sophie has a good voice and a winning smile and she plays with confidence and more than a touch of humour, which made for an entertaining opening set.
Tonight is the third time I’ve seen The Blueprints in a relatively short time but tonight, perhaps because they were essentially playing to the other bands and their friends, they decided to have a bit of fun and play around with the set-list a bit, which freshened it up a bit. Starting with their “normal” three songs – one I still haven’t caught the title of, Three Minutes and Staring At The Sun – there followed a short interval, during which Stuart changed his guitar and the band launched into Layla (a song Stuart, apparently, hates). Back to the serious stuff and we got the superb City Skylines, a cover of Ryan Adams’ Two (which may just have inspired me to try some of his material), Spectrum Vs Commodore, No Melancholy and a song I don’t think I’ve heard before which may have been called Walk Away. As usual, The Blueprints gave a very entertaining performance of some striking songs. In fact, each time I see them I find myself liking them more.
Thankfully, both support acts hung around to see Miniature Dinosaurs, a young band from Stirling who were touring to promote their second EP, Off The Radio. After the first song, vocalist Barry Maclean thanked everybody for staying around and said that a wise man had once told him that whether there was one person or a thousand in the audience you put on the same show. And what a show. Occasionally breaking the set up by asking the audience whether they knew answers to a pop quiz, Barry showed an easy camaraderie (and sound-man Andy a nice humourous touch with the lighting when he briefly sent the band to hell…) The music is indie-pop with a touch of 80’s electro-pop both from the keyboards of Craig Ferrie and Barry’s vocals and the performance deserved a much bigger audience than it got tonight. We were treated to songs from both EP’s, including Off The Radio, (I Want To Watch) Top Gear, Alligator (a personal favourite of mine), Cold Shoulder, Light Speed, Fight Or Flight and two others and all were played brilliantly. As a rule, I don’t dance but my feet were certainly tapping tonight.
After the set, I had a chat with Alban Dickson, the Dinosaurs’ bass-player. We covered a variety of topics including football, the Stirling music scene, the band itself and my lack of passion for the EP format. Alban was very pragmatic about the small turnout, telling me that it was something that, being a new band, they had to accept and that the next time they play York, they would hope to play to five more people and ten more the time after, building a following. I can only say that, if they do come back, I will definitely make every effort to see them. Highly recommended.